Lectionary Reflection: Matthew 5: 1-12: Live This, Not That.

Have you seen the books: Eat This, Not That?  I feel someone should write a companion or take-off on that.  It can be called: Live This, Not That

I always found the beatitudes (so-called) fascinating.  The main reason is because people hear the word “blessed” and get excited.  Going out on a limb, I would suggest it is nearly always the only thing people hear.  “I want to be blessed.”  I’m glad God blesses.”  “I want to see God’s blessing on my life.”  And it often ends with people going away thinking, “Yes, God will bless me for being generally a good person.”  But that misses the point.  The beatitudes are not God’s prescription for how to be blessed.  Look at the last two beatitudes if you don’t believe me.

No.

This is God’s short list on how we are to live: think, feel, act, be and do.  This is telling us the sort of people with whom God is well pleased.  (We heard that at Christmas time.  The angels called for Peace on Earth and good will toward all with whom God is well pleased).  Jesus is telling us here, Live This, Not That and the “blessed” phrase at the beginning of each thought is simply saying that this lifestyle is God Approved (like the Good Housekeeping seal).

CAUTION:  People who are used to hearing about the beatitudes and walking out thinking that surely God will bless them for being basically good people are not necessarily going to be happy hearing this.

I have a study on the beatitudes which I hope to post over three Wednesdays leading into Lent, but for this little post, let me try the summary version.  Here, in short, rewritten into plain English, is what I believe God is telling us in these beatitudes of Live This, Not That: 

1.         Give away everything you have, spiritually, with regard to matters of faith until you feel utterly drained.  God will fill you up. 

2.         If you must worry, be concerned about those who don’t know or refuse to know Jesus.  Pray for them.  Be content. 

3.         You cannot control others.  It is enough to strive to control ourselves – our deeds and our tongue.  We must do what we can – all we can and then trust God to be God.

4.         Don’t let this world control your thoughts or feelings.  (You can’t control others.  Don’t let others control you either).  Seek out what is good, right and true and fill yourself with these things. 

5.         Become a forgiving and giving people and fill your life with mercy in all its forms.  Remember the greatest mercy ever shown was to us all on the cross. 

6.         Love.  Strive to grow Spiritual fruit in your life and let go of all the evil this world promotes such as sin, hatred, anger, fear, envy, greed and the like.  Set your mind on spiritual things because that is where God is.

7.         There are people in this world, you may know such a person, who can make believers feel better, feel good and believe in themselves.  Praise these people and learn to be like them. 

8.         We must uplift, encourage and support one another, because the world currently hates Christians: in Muslim countries, in China, in Southeast Asia, in Darfur to name a few places, to be a Christian may mean jail time if not death.

9.         In America we don’t bomb churches or kill Christians – yet.  But the ridicule, the accusations of evil, the persecution is heating up and I don’t see it getting any better.  Here, we are encouraged to hold on and despite everything, to make a difference for God in this world.

Then, I figure we can worry about the next world when we get there, but that is just me.

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